The Importance of Continuing Education
By Dr. Sara Haines
Continuing education, or “CE,” should really be called “Everything you didn’t learn in dental school that you need to learn to continue practicing at the highest level in your profession. ”I guess CE is a catchier name, but it is really so much more than just a requirement for maintenance of an active dental license. CE requirements are set by each state and detail the amount, content and frequency of education that you are required take to keep your license active and in good standing. Contacting your State Board of Dentistry will provide details to enable you to maintain compliance with requirements.
Initial CE requirements post-graduation don’t take effect until the next odd year of licensure renewal, but these may be some of the most critical years to expand your understanding of the procedures you do. Learning new procedures and learning about practice and business management are important early on in your career. CE can enhance your practice profitability and if you are an associate, it can make you more valuable.
Once you graduate and receive your license, you will be swamped with flyers and brochures detailing CE courses all over the country. Many of them are in nice locations that allow for education during the day and vacation time in the evening. A popular location is LVI. When you select CE courses to attend, read the course objectives carefully to see what information they intend to cover.If you are buying a practice or are a business owner, you can pay for your CE and your employees’ CE courses through the practice. This makes it affordable to obtain new knowledge and let your dental team learn along with you. (I learned this and other business management strategies at a CE course offered by the Harrisburg Area Dental Society last month.)
Many courses are not just reviews of routine procedures but introductions to new technology, procedures and practice management. In fact, the Pennsylvania Department of State encourages CE in different disciplines, including laser technology (if it is something you use in your practice).2 You can also find courses that are part of a series of courses leading up to certifications or additional licenses, for example education courses on the use of Nitrous Oxide anesthesia, or orthodontic certifications.
One place to locate high quality continuing education is through dental organizations. National, state and local dental organizations hold CE courses regularly. I have attended courses sponsored by my local society through PDA and have had the opportunity to meet other practitioners in my area. I have met specialists and obtained their contact information for referrals. This is especially helpful if you are new to an area and don't have a referral network set up.I also talked to other GPs over lunch and found people that could share emergency coverage during vacations. The ADA sponsors many meetings annually that incorporate CE, such as the new dentist conference and their annual session. Contacting the CE coordinator at your dental school can help find school-sponsored programs both at the school and at satellite locations.
For those dentists that want to go above and beyond the minimum requirements, there are programs through the Academy of General Dentistry that lead to obtaining a Fellowship or Mastership in the AGD. A Fellowship is obtained after completing 500 hours of Continuing Education in a variety of disciplines. A written examination to assess competence must be passed. Only 7 percent of general dentists obtain their FAGD.1
Mastership is the next level of advanced education and is dependent on taking 1,100 hours of CE in the 16 disciplines of dentistry with a requirement of 400 hours in hands- on skills. There are only 152 dentists in Pennsylvania that have obtained an MAGD.1 The PEAK program with the PAGD helps dentists stay on track and obtain an FAGD or MAGD over a four-year course.
The end of dental school is just the beginning of a lifetime of learning and enhancing our profession of dentistry. I encourage you to seek out CE that inspires you and keeps you connected to the dental community.